You know what they say about anything you're inexperienced in: Fake it 'til you make it!
The exact same principle applies to travel, whether you're new to the whole thing or just travelling to a new destination for the first time. You can't and won't know the best way to do everything when first setting foot in a place, but you don't have to let everyone else know that!
Here are our top tips for seeming more well-seasoned than you actually are and saving money in the process!
1. Rip off that airline luggage tag
There's no greater advertisement to say “Hey, I just arrived in this country” than an airline luggage tag. Disposing of this evidence is the first thing we do when our baggage comes off the carousel and as a rule we never leave the airport with them still on. Looking “newly-arrived” says two things to cab drivers, touts, anyone looking to make money out of you: ‘I don't know where I'm going exactly' and ‘I have no idea how much things should cost here.' Potential scammers or clever entrepreneurs (whichever way you look at it) come hither and make me an offer I surely can't refuse! ;)
You might be thinking that walking out of an airport with a backpack is a pretty sure giveaway that you just took a plane there. Yes, you're right. But no tag certainly helps when you get to town and are looking for accommodation or anytime you happen to be moving around with your baggage. For all they know, you could be just switching hotels or have just come by bus from another town in which you may have already spent a considerable amount of time.
2. Research airport transportation options before arrival
We're notorious for not having set plans before we arrive in-country but be smart and at least research how you are going to get from the airport (or bus/train station) to your accommodation. Or, if you don't have booked accommodation, to a central or convenient part of town where you know there are some accommodation options.
Tip: Take a look at some accommodation booking sites online and make a note of a few options and their addresses for reference.
Most airports have some public transportation links. Find out what they are and which one would be most cost-effective and convenient for you. If there aren't many options, you'll want to know this beforehand, and if there are many, it's much better to have at least narrowed down your best options and have something to ask for when you do arrive (especially if English or a language you are proficient in is not widely spoken).
Tip: When deciding on flights, factor in on-the-ground transportation options. For example, saving a few bucks by selecting the cheapest flight available might not end up being the cheapest option if the flight arrives after public transportation has already ended for the evening and a costly cab is your only option.
3. Know how much a cab should cost you
If you do need to take a cab, then do some research online before your trip and find out the average fare to the city centre or the area you want to go. This is especially important when using un-metered taxis and you need to barter the price beforehand (and in such cases ALWAYS confirm the cost before getting in and starting your journey). Any schemers will be less likely to pull the wool over your eyes when you seem confident of the price you should be paying.
Tip: It may sound like a cab is always the most expensive option and is to be avoided. But this is most certainly not always the case. In a lot of destinations where such services cost much less than we may be used to in our home cities, a cab may check the boxes for both cost-effective and most convenient. The cost can come down even further (perhaps even cheaper than public transport) if you share your cab with fellow travellers. When we are thinking a cab is the best option, we reach out to other travellers coming off the same flight or bus/train and ask if they are heading to a similar area and if they'd like to share a taxi. If your plans align, most travellers are very willing to split the cost. After all, they are probably trying to save money too.
4. Know where you're going (and let others know it)
Gone are the days where cabbies can get away with the taking you around in circles in a new city trick. Cache Google maps for the area on your mobile device/tablet and pin where you want to go.
Tip: You don't need Wi-Fi for the blue dot to show where you are as long as you already cached the map when you were online. Zoom in far enough when you do for the detail to also be available when you are offline.
It's not only very useful for showing the cab driver where you want to go as they can see it in the context of surrounding streets and landmarks, but it also lets them know that you can see exactly where you are in proximity to the destination.
5. Never say “It's my first day/time here.”
Don't undo all the good work you've done with the first four tips by letting your newbie status slip! Of course, this really depends on who you're talking to. It's a judgement call. There are some people to whom skirting around this would be of little to no point, but I think you'd agree that telling that unmetered taxi driver or that guy trying to sell you something in the market that you've just arrived for the first time (and hence don't have experience in this place) is not always the best idea. In such situations, I tell a little white lie and say that I've visited a number of times before.
You wouldn't believe the amount of tourists I heard in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar saying to merchants, “Sorry, I just arrived this morning so don't know what the going rate is. How much does something like this cost?” With a glimmer in his eye, “400 Turkish lira” (i.e. $200!!). For something no more than a 10th of the price! At which point I'm silently face palming in the background feeling the need to write this post and only wishing they'd read it before their next trip.
Tip: Do your research or ask someone you trust/without a vested interest in your purchase before buying. If you don't have any friends locally, you can make them. If you missed, here's our post about how to meet locals while travelling.
Do you follow any of these tips? How do you make your seasoned traveller side shine upon first arrival?